Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Shara Hoston
For centuries, gemstones have held roles in life other than being
used for jewelry and trade. Because experimental science was not really a
part of culture until the days of Newton and Galileo, the common people had to
find other means to explain the world around them. A large part of their
belief system came from what they observed from nature. Gemstones played a
large role in what people believed to be good and bad, and although we usually
attribute superstitions to ancient people, some are still currently believed.
One of the most common gemstones with superstitions is opal, the
birthstone of October. Opal is known to have a very brittle nature which
allows it to break very easily. Just as a broken mirror hold connotations of bad
luck, broken opal also assumes bad luck. However, opal does not have this
implication in all cultures. For example, in many Asian cultures, opal is seen
as a sign of hope rather than despair.
Garnet is the birthstone of January. The gemstone seems to
hold connections to blood due to its red coloring. It is known to stop
bleeding and reverse the effects of blood poisoning. It is also supposedly
supposed to bring peace between enemies of war and cease bloodshed.
Amethyst, the birthstone of February, is one of the most common gemstones. It is beloved for its deep purple color. The most common superstition surrounding the gemstone is that it wards off drunkenness. Leonardo da Vinci also had his own ideas about the beautiful purple stone. He believed the stone had the capability to take away evil thoughts and “quicken intelligence.” This goes to show that even intellectuals, such as Leonardo da Vinci, believed in the power of nature.
Turquoise, the birthstone of December, is known to give certain
characteristics to those who wear it. These characteristics include
wisdom, understanding, trust, and mental and spiritual clarity. In Mexico,
it was believed that the gemstone was reserved only for the gods to wear.
In the Southwest of the United States, it was also believed by the Apache
Indians that the stone would aid the aim of their weapons while hunting or
Aquamarine, is another stone known for aiding people in their
endeavors. The stone is known for soothing married couples and keeping
sailors safe at sea. The light blue color of the gemstone is most likely
connected to the color of the sea, implying to an earlier people that it had
something to do with the sea, and in this case, keeping the seas calm for
travelling sailors. It is also said to heal a person from heart, liver,
stomach, mouth, and throat ailments.
Diamond, the most popular gemstone and the birthstone of April,
has always been related to love. In ancient days, it was connected to
mythology and had connections to Cupid. Diamonds were said to have covered
the tip of Cupid’s arrow. This is most likely why diamonds are no used in
almost all wedding and engagement rings. The ancient Romans also believed
that diamonds provided strength, invincibility and bravery to whoever wore them.
Another very popular gemstone is the pearl. Pearls are the
birthstone of June and usually represent purity. Pearls are usually given
to children, believing that they will lengthen the child’s life. However,
if the stone is given to an adult, it supposedly represents sadness. For
this reason, unlike the diamond, pearls are never to be worn in a wedding
because of the connotation of bad luck.
Rubies are often attributed to prophecy. It is believed
that the red of a ruby will turn deeper and darker if danger is near, warning
the wearer of it. However, it
is also known for reversing the effects of poison.
Peridot is known for bringing health. The green gemstone is said to cure heart disease and reduce stress and fever.
Emerald, another green gemstone is known to bring fertility and
rebirth. They are often seen as good luck on a married couple and are said to
reduce the pain of childbirth for a woman during labor.
Sapphire, one of the more admired gemstones, is also known for
curing poisoning but also for curing mental illness. It is believed to
restore eyesight as well as protect from enemies.
Lastly, citrine, the birthstone of November, is known to ward off
evil thoughts as well as cure kidney disease. It is known as a stone of
personal power and success.
Perhaps these superstitions surrounding gemstones are less prevalent in modern culture because of scientific advancement. While today we have specific reasoning and cures for diseases and sickness, centuries ago those reasons did not exist. The only logical reason for ailments was due to surrounding elements, such as gemstones, which led to the multiple beliefs surrounding the beautiful stones today.